Friday, September 5, 2014

The Cult of Childbearing

I make this no real mystery: I do not really care for children, and I do not plan on having any children. This in and of itself is not really that spectacular. There are many people who share one, or both, of these feelings with me. What I do find peculiar is the cult of childbearing which permeates society. I find it interesting that expressing those two simple ideas... that kids aren't that great and I don't want to have any, creates such tension with some people. This group has the unique distinction of  crossing political, social, economic, and cultural boundaries. I've had liberals, conservatives, atheists, Muslims, Christians, middle class, lower class, well-educated, and uneducated people all take offense to these things as if I had uttered some unimaginable blasphemy against them by saying that kids aren't great (and can even be worse than that) and that I don't want any. 

Now, here is what I find peculiar: the hypocritical notion that all my other preferences can be trusted to be the result of my experiences and judgment, EXCEPT for this. Nobody is coming up to me and saying "You don't like chocolate? Well, you will change your mind when you grow up." You know who uses that kind of condescending fuckery?

Fucking idiots and self-righteous twats.

Here's the thing, folks... you're wrong, so just fuck off. It's my preference. My choice. Not yours. I'm not asking you to defend your choices to me, yet these people seem to have this fanatical urge to assure me that I'm wrong, that parenting is the alpha and omega of life choices, that obviously I only don't like kids that much because I don't have any of my own. Look, if you want to run along and squirt out some loin puppies (or adopt one!) with your significant other, go right ahead! If that's wonderful and fulfilling to you, I'm very happy for you. Follow your bliss, not mine. But kindly keep your preferences the fuck away from my right to live MY life how I choose to. Religion does that kind of ignorant shit. Irrational people do that. There is nothing rational about condemning a harmless preference as wrong simply by virtue of disagreeing, or asking someone to live their lives by your desires. 

Now let me start at the statement that catches a lot of flack from all comers, and is kind of a disclaimer. Kids kind of suck, they aren't that great, and I don't want to be around them. Obviously, this is my humble opinion and does influence my views on having kids of my own. I've had this view equated with racism and sexism, on the grounds that I was generalizing a group of people. Criticizing my views of a certain developmental time frame is the kind of intellectually bankrupt acrobatics you expect from people too stupid or lazy to entertain my actual point. These kinds of flagrant twat-clowns don't seem to understand how stupid that is, so let me clear this imbecilic misconception up so they will shut their mouths before making total asses of themselves by making baseless assumptions about my meaning without seeking clarity.

Kids are gross. I don't necessarily dislike them, I just don't want to be around them. The developmental stages from birth to age 10 are loud, smelly, filthy, shit-piss-vomit covered stretches of awful. I don't care to be around loud noises, or bad smells. Small children, even with the most attentive parents, lack a sense of hygiene. I dislike the huge messes that invariably come with having toddlers around. I also don't care for the ridiculous (and normal) behaviors exhibited by children, like never listening, or talking back. Look, if you're a parent, and you're going to tell me I'm wrong about this, ask yourself: has my child, at any age, ever created a public disturbance, soiled themselves, or otherwise been a nuisance, or rude, disrespectful, talked back, etc? If your answer is no, you're a liar or an absentee parent. All children do these things, and your child is not special. Most adults do some of these. I did them as a child. All my nieces and nephews have, and will continue to, do these things. I'm not demonizing children, but pointing out the obvious really shouldn't be so hard for you people who are "grown up" enough to have kids. I understand these things as part of certain developmental processes, and that doesn't change a single thing. To anyone who would agree with the above statement about me being unduly prejudiced, I would simply say this: if you think a distaste for people who exhibit certain less-than-savory behaviors at a certain stage of development is equitable to racism, or sexism, I encourage you to retake introductory psychology and biology, and then get back to me once you're done being an ignorant self-righteous twat.

Also, an aside: citing your children as examples of why kids are great is not viable. I'm sorry but "You wouldn't say that if you met my kids" is equitable to saying to someone who doesn't like liver "Well, you've never had it when I cooked it!" Fuck you. I'm smart enough to reach justified conclusions on all my preferences. Besides, your little ones aren't special to anyone but you. They're just as gross, contrary, and ridiculous as everyone else's kids. I'm sure exceptions may exist, but I'll not be holding my breath for examples. You're only convinced of their exceptional nature because you're their parent. If you saw them how everyone else did, without the veneer of neurochemicals and hormones and personal bias, you'd be just as unimpressed. Your child has reached all the same cognitive and developmental milestones as all other children, well within a single deviation from the norm! Congratulations!

I don't like kids because of the behaviors associated with the state of childhood, the same way I don't like criminals for behaviors associated with being a criminal. The behavior is distasteful, and that's okay! I don't like religious bullshit either, and even if thy're good people, I try to avoid it. Think that's wrong still? Fuck off. I know people who don't like children but who are parents, and utterly devoted to their own offspring. Why is that weird? Why is that a conceptually difficult framework to accept? Unlike the illogical prejudice of racism and sexism, my distaste for children has basis in behaviors which are demonstrably distasteful. If your social network was filled with people constantly throwing up, throwing tantrums, and defecating on themselves, you'd likely have a negative view of them too. At least adults can help it.

So no, I don't have kids. I've worked with kids a little, and have played uncle to 15 admittedly rather wonderful little sproglets (or not so little, the age range is huge). I love them. Even when they're kind of shitty, or gross, or obnoxious, I love them. I just prefer not them during the developmental stages of childhood and early adolescence. At least there comes a point when you can converse with them like adults and they can clean themselves. Parents get frustrated and fed up and impatient with behaviors and actions all the time, yet can still love their children. I don't understand how my desire to avoid all of those things makes me equitable to a Klan member or Men's Rights Activist, but hey, it's your bullshit parade comrades... wave that scepter of stupidity high and proud.

Now let's move on to the real issue at hand. That mini rant was just to point out that not caring much for children does also not make someone a bad person, and people who think so are idiots. Now, I'd like to talk about the culture that, regardless of your reasons for not wanting kids, treats you like a sub-human wretch for voicing the thought. Anyone who has ever expressed a lack of interest in having children has heard it all, but I thought I'd highlight some of the more common moronic approaches taken by these people, as well as get a female perspective from a dear friend (whose responses to the ones of these she has heard will be in this lovely green) who not only does not really like kids, but is a parent who does not want any more kids.

-"You'll change your mind/you could change your mind."
Fuck any person who ever suggest this, because they are being a condescending cunt and challenging your intelligence. Nobody makes these assumptions about other preferences. Of course my preferences could change, but does that mean they're invalid now? Not at all. I could change my mind on a lot of things: religion, career choices,favorite color, politics, the Holocaust,etc. I could even change my mind about not stabbing you in the face for being a cunt. Does the fact that a personal preference could change really act as an argument against my current preference? Not at all. You could decide tomorrow you prefer someone who isn't your significant other. Does that statement also justify the blatantly insulting questioning of my intelligence and judgment? Not when you take into account that your judgment is trusted on almost every other preference: food, drink, clothing, colors, etc. and that you are fully capable of reaching conclusions based on your experiences and interactions, EXCEPT for this issue. Take a second to ponder how absolutely insipid that statement would be with ANY other preference. "You don't like chocolate? Well, you'll change your mind." or "You don't like dogs? That will change when you have one of your own." Well fuck you, you piece of shit. Personally, as a reasonably intelligent and self-aware person, I find the questioning of my motivations and sincerity by someone who has no basis for comparison to my life rather insulting... but hey, if they're trying to push their preferences on me, I guess I can't expect much from them. This is simply an attempt to browbeat, guilt, and bully people into sharing your preferences. It's another form of shaming. Not as prevalent as body-image shaming or sexuality-shaming, but it exists as part of this rampant culture of subtle oppression. Congratulations fuckwads, you're now part of the problem of not treating people like people. And, though I do recognize hypocrisy as a fundamental part of human interaction and behaviors, I abhor it where it accentuates the rabid zeal with which these people casually use language and social force to attempt to dehumanize and convert all dissenting opinions into their childbearing cult. I was tempted to use sexuality and gender here, as an example, but I think that social question gets asked a LOT more and is equally perverse and fucked up. If you're saying "Oh,your sexual preferences or gender identity will change when you grow up" then you are a bigoted, ignorant little shit goblin.

Another aside: When they use "you're still young, you'll change your mind" as if my age somehow takes away from my ability to reason myself through a decision, it is moronic. I'm young, not stupid. Using my age as a criticism of my ability to establish personal preference is like using my weight, height hair color, or eye color, or any other arbitrary characteristic as a metric for critique of my ability to make choices. It's not only completely baseless, but you look like a total fuckwad.

Yep. I sure could. And so what if I did? This is such an insipid statement, it's difficult for me respond with anything more eloquent than  "Oh, fuck off." As a woman, this is typically coupled with "once you feel your biological clock ticking." Which usually renders me speechless. As though I was some kind of breeding machine with an expiration date stamped on my uterus. This even came into the conversation during my recent hysterectomy. Due to medical reasons, I had to have surgery. Two nurses and the anesthesiologist, each on a separate occasion, made this comment to me. With a sad look on their faces, they would place a hand on my arm or pat my leg. "Oh, honey. You're too young for this." they would say, as though this was an elective procedure and, again, having this done before my expiration date was a tragedy. After telling them that it was okay, I didn't want any more kids, every single one of them said "You'll change your mind." Which was even worse hearing when I was ten minutes away from not having that option anymore.

-"Don't you want to pass on your legacy/family name?"
My worth is not tied to my last name, and I don't think I am only capable of leaving a legacy behind in the form of children. Memories, things accomplished, lives changed. All of these things are a good legacy for a good life. I really don't have much more to say to this one than that.

-"That's selfish/ materialistic"
Well, that's fucking life. Everything is based on selfishness. I've touched on this before, but I'll do so again: human interactions are based on selfishness. We surround ourselves with people who make us feel good. We do good things for them so that they'll continue to make us feel good. It's mutualism, sure, but still rooted in OUR needs. Our biology drives us to reproduce so that our genes get based on... we make babies out of a selfish need to spread our genes, even as an unthinking biological process, it's all about us. A cynical and exaggerated point of view? Yeah, but not far off the money. Is it really so terrible to pursue a life on my terms? I don't want to bring up discussions of freedom or free time and money, I think those are stupid. I don't want kids because I think they'll ruin my life. I just don't want kids. Yeah, I guess the money and time and resources I'd spend on children will probably get spent on me, but why not? If you don't have a pet, is that selfish? No. Sort your hypocrisy out.

Who exactly is it that I'm being selfish with? A child that doesn't even exist? And what exactly if wrong with being selfish or materialistic? I call that giving a damn about yourself and your way of life. 

-"That's immature"
Really? Knowing what I want is immature? Not at all like imposing your beliefs on other people, right? Fuck off, you vapid mooncalf.
-"You're only saying that because you don't have any kids/positive experiences with children/etc."
I have plenty of positive experiences with kids of all ages. I have 5 nieces and nephews ranging from 3 months old to 21 years old. I've had deep conversations with them, taught them things, learned things from them. I enjoy watching them flourish and discover and question. I even like holding the baby as he sleeps. At the end of the day, as much as I treasure those experiences as an uncle, I'm glad they aren't my kids. Let's be honest, this is having their personal bias shoved in your face. I don't have syphilis either, but you'll excuse me for not running out and giving it a shot.

Well, see... I do, actually. I have a 14 year old son whom I love ferociously and who sometimes literally lights up my days (because teenage boys can't seem to get the knack of turning off switches when they leave a damn room). He wasn't planned. When I found out at age nineteen that I was pregnant, I was devastated. I hadn't ever wanted kids. Being extremely religious at the time, getting an abortion wasn't something I would ever have considered. I've gotten A LOT of flack for saying some of these things. Because I don't parrot the usual "He's the best thing that ever happened to me. He sure changed my mind about kids. I can't even imagine my life without him." Because, you know what, I can. I would have gone to college. I would have been able to move out of town when I wanted to, instead of being stuck here due to custody arrangements. I would have travelled like I always wanted to. I typically don't dare utter those things. People react with such vitriol. So you see, that argument doesn't apply to me. I have a child I think is pretty great.

-"But kids are so [insert non-reason adjective for having kids, like precious/adorable/precocious/sweet/etc.]"
...just see the above sections on why that's wrong and kids aren't that great.

There are a lot of positive adjectives you could use to describe kids. But there are also a lot of negative ones. Like exhausting. And smelly. And sticky, oh my GOD, why are they always so sticky? And loud. So loud. The only things I like loud are sex and music. 

-"You just haven't found the right partner"
Honestly, you know what, I will give this statement some credit. If I was in a committed long-term relationship and she really wanted to have children, I could see myself compromising. Generally though, I'd like to think that such relationships are founded mostly on the mutual respect for each other and general understanding of these choices. I'd also like to say that it will take more than a relationship to change my views.

I take great offense to this one. Not wanting to have children has cost me relationships. It caused tension and animosity between me and past partners. People I cared deeply for and may otherwise have gone on to be with for many years. I didn't change my mind. I read in a book once that having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit. And I was never certain.

Those are just a few of the common examples of the sophomoric responses to people who don't want children. I even ignored the religious reasons for wanting to have kids, mostly because your text says to and sex for fun/out of wedlock is sinful and a lot of other things that seem more intent on subjugating women and breeding a generation of indoctrinated sheep than actually concerned with personal choice of the men and women in loving relationships. But hey, that's religion for you! It treat women like walking wombs and expects all people to be subservient. It is outdated, ludicrous, and useless. Here, once again, our female perspective weighs in with something that she thinks is important to note:

"We've been drifting apart and I think that having a baby will bring us closer together."

"I don't want to lose him. A baby will make him stay."

"I don't really want to work anymore. I'll just be a stay at home mom."

These are all actual statements I've heard as to why women I've known decided to have kids. And they are all unbelievably fucking stupid. Yet they're met with little to no objection. However, all of the reasons I've given for *not* having children receive angry, patronizing, or emphatically indignant responses. How is it that "I have baby fever! They're just so cute!" is considered valid and normal, yet "It doesn't fit into my plans. I want to go back to school." receives scowls, head-shakes, and even statements of how selfish that is of me? Are society's perceptions of what is expected and acceptable so skewed that any excuse for having kids is okay, but any explanation for not having kids is brushed off or vehemently argued against? Do babies shit diamonds that bring about world peace and feed starving orphans, or something else I was unaware of? The scrutiny of a "good enough reason" should be on those that DO decide to have children, in my opinion. Not the other way around.

There is a culture here which stigmatizes people who can't or won't have children. These categories are distinct, and the issues are separate, but I'd like to address both. For those who cannot have children, and desire to, I cannot begin to understand the frustration that the struggle alone causes. I have a background in reproductive biology, and so I know the lengths to which couples go to be order to have children, and the risks and financial stress associated with these things. It is even more of a shame, then, when this dogmatic cult of childbirth that exists perpetuates negativity. This is the culture that makes infertile men feel less like "real men" and tells women their worth should be directly tied to the usefulness of their womb.There are certain cultures that treat these people as less-than-human because they cannot procreate. This culture makes infertility seem like a personal failing, and not the issue of biology that it is. We don't criticize for other health issues, why this one? These individuals should be given help, love, and support by the people around them, not made to feel inhuman. I can only say that I'm happy with the rate at which current infertility issues are being researched for clinical application. I hate that this cult tends to view women as merely breeding machines, even the liberal side. This is not respecting autonomy. It's telling people that they have to adhere to your ideals. It's trying to control their choices, and it dehumanizes the women who are incapable.

For those of us who choose to not have children, and more so those who would say that children aren't that great, we are viewed as these inhuman monsters, skulking in the depths of our selfish depravity. At best we're soon as fools incapable of making informed choices about our own lives, obviously too naive and misguided to know what we want from life. Nothing about not wanting to have children is nearly as bad as the vacuous twats who want to treat people with a differing opinion as idiots. We are not the ones with the luxury of the social norm. We're the ones subjected to the verbal vomit of these self-righteous trolls who are too stupid and self-absorbed to understand that we're intelligent enough to make our own decisions. We have to deal with the emotional tirades of people too utterly, ridiculously lost in their own lives to imagine that anyone else could ever make a different decision than the one they made. I get it, you love your kids and they complete your life. Congratulations. I don't have an interest in that. I mean, you don't get upset when I don't like the same music genres you do (unless you're an asshole) and you don't get upset when we have different food preferences (I don't like Chinese food, boo-fucking-hoo. Nobody who likes it cares that I don't) Why get upset when I don't share your views of children? Are you so upset that someone pointed out irrational feelings you have about how special your kids are? Here's a good idea: let me live my life, and you live yours. Expressing my opinion that is different than yours is not an indictment of your choice. However, your "well-meaning" attempts at inserting your belief into every discussion of the topic is a socially stigmatizing event, especially when you're dismissing the valid, legitimate point of view of dissenting voices.

I don't like chocolate. Did that hurt your feelings? Do you feel like I'm trying to keep you from eating it? No. But if I said "Give it time, you'll grow up and learn to not like chocolate too." that is a different statement. That is suggesting that your view is in some way flawed or incorrect. Or how about "You don't want a pet? That's so immature." Or "You don't like banana bread? That's only because you've never tried MY banana bread." See how utterly idiotic and overbearing those statements are? Do you see how that difference in approach of me stating my opinion versus it being dismissed as irrelevant is? That's part of stigma, you ignorant fuck. It happens with gender, mental health, sexuality, body image, marriage, and the decision to have children.

Don't try to dictate my life because my harmless preference doesn't match up with your ideals. I can, and will, lead a happy and fulfilling life without children. If my mind changes, I'll adjust... but it certainly won't change because of someone trying to tell me all of their personal beliefs on why I shouldn't feel the way that I do. I won't pander to religion and pseudoscience that way, and I certainly won't pander to them. This Cult of Childbearing is an overbearing, self-righteous, ignorant bunch of controlling, self-absorbed little wretches who think that anyone who doesn't live their way and share their views is wrong. The same thought process is opposed when it targets same-sex couples, or the free practice of sexuality, or the absence of religious belief and adherence... why is it tolerated at all in this case? This is just another in a series of small oppressions by groups which hold a social majority, and therefore can conveniently attempt to dictate by mob rule. Is this a serious issue? No. There are worse things... but the fact that this is interlocked with religious lunacy and anti-woman sentiments, and is clearly a system which despises personal choice is something that all people should be concerned about. It starts to tie into the "pro life" (anti-woman, pro-birth) outlooks so commonly expressed by the strongly religious, but does not simply end there. It is a system which casts doubt on the individual's ability to choose for themselves, and assumes the desires of the many outweighs the individuality of any dissenting voice. That is the heart of my opposition to religion, and the heart of my opposition to this Childbearing Cult. You have no right to tell me how to live my life, how to dress, what to eat, who to love, or how to love them. You have a right to your thoughts, but not a right to force them upon others. I will not sacrifice my personal freedom for your closed-minded ideas. Having our opinion does not mean we care if you have children, or anyone else really. If you can properly care for a child, and want one, please do have one. Even if your reasons for having one are a little bit fucked up, hey... that's your choice. Just don't throw your choice in my face like MY choice to take another road with my life is bad. You're moralizing a decision that doesn't sit along a moral dichotomy. Worse, you're attempting to subject my life to your biases. This isn't about the children we're not having, this is about people belittling our choices as if we're just vehicles for propagation. 

Do you know what the really stupid part of this is? People don't understand this: not wanting to have children does not mean I hate children. It doesn't mean I think they're all "bad." It doesn't make me selfish, or loveless, or miserable. It means I don't want kids. My goals are different from their goals, and these people seem to resent it. My choices do not require you to change yours. I don't want that. I'm glad you like being a parent. I'm glad my parents wanted children, and I'm very grateful for my lovely nieces and nephews. I'm happy for good parents, and even mediocre parents, because they do so much for their children, and yeah, children are the future. They're just not my future. I still want to see children educated and loved and cared for. I want to see children grow into capable, competent, well-adjust adults. I just on't want to have any of my own. What makes you happy and content, is not what makes me happy and content. Fucking embrace that.